Focus on Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme - Grants Programme
The grants programme supports the development of community projects, activities and services, which can support Syrian refugees and the scheme’s aims, outcomes and priorities.
The funding is available to groups and organisations working directly with Syrian refugees, doing things to improve community cohesion in areas where Syrian refugees are being accommodated, or improve cultural awareness of refugees amongst front-line services.
It is intended that the grants programme has a broader impact on the resettlement and integration of all refugees and migrants in the city.
The Bike Project
The premise of this national charity is to take second-hand bikes, fix them up, and donate them to refugees and asylum seekers in London and Birmingham.
The Bike project was awarded a grant from the Syrian VPRS in May 2020. They are working with Syrian refugees for 12 months to provide 150 bicycles and deliver mentoring and group family days focused on cycle training, whilst providing fun and social interaction.
The benefits of cycling for health and wellbeing are well known, as are the benefits to our environment in reducing traffic pollution.
The city council is currently expanding safe cycle routes to encourage more cycling in the city, and thus the Bike Project fits in nicely with the city’s environmental aims.
Prior to the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, plans were set to provide the participants with ‘Bike Buddies’.
These are experienced and established cyclists who volunteer to accompany a new cyclist on their rides, building their confidence, providing comradeship and knowledge of cycle routes etc, not to mention the benefits of integration and English language improvement.
Hopefully the Spring will bring a reduction in Covid-19 restrictions and Bike Buddies can get out on the road with the new cyclists.
All group activities have had to be postponed because of the pandemic but the Bike Project is running 1-1 cycle training sessions, and a virtual course called Cyber Cyclists which is about bike safety and maintenance.
The Bike Project worked in collaboration with another BCC funded scheme- the Navigator Project at Refugee Action, to set up a virtual Cyber Cyclist specific session for people from the VPRS programme.
It was a great success with participants enjoying seeing each other (albeit virtually) for the first time, in a long time.
These sessions also support English language practice and improvement.
Hopefully, the reduction in Covid-19 restrictions will enable another planned project Pedal Power to get cycling in the Spring.
It’s aimed specifically at women, to get them on bikes for the first time, promoting health, independence, and a cheaper method of travelling than public transport.
So far, 96 donated and reconditioned bikes have been allocated to individuals, and they have been met with gratitude and delight.
The holistic benefits of the Bike Project can be summed up in the words of one happy recipient “Before we got our bikes, we spent a lot of time doing home activities.
Sometimes, we would go walking. The bike gave us more outdoors sports and discovery activities.
We save money. I can summarise this in a few words: when we want to go visit another family or go shopping, the bike saves us the bike ticket or the cost of a taxi.
At the same time, it’s a sports lesson.
And if we have any psychological pressures, I go to the nearby forest/park with the kids and feel better mentally.”
Conversation and Song Café - Taste of Birmingham
Provided by the Community Interest Company, ‘In Her Shoes’, this project brings women together from the Syrian community to share their experiences, worries and successes in a safe, creative environment.
The project “creates opportunities and spaces for women and girls to come together, share creative experiences and have fun.”
Due to the pandemic the sessions had to be virtual which didn’t bode well for actual singing!
The women were consulted about what they wanted from the project and responded with “activities for themselves, and their children during lockdown”.
This resulted in doorstep drop-bags, containing song lists, lyrics, seeds for planting….
Women with small children were provided with songs that are commonly sung at community playgroups such as ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’.
Learning these popular children’s songs will encourage the families to attend local playgroups because knowing the songs will increase their confidence and enable them to participate.
One of the Café’s aims is promoting inclusion by giving the women the information and confidence to use civic services and facilities such as libraries and museums, and for their voices to be heard as citizens of Brum.
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has literally done this by including a song the group wrote in its recent project about Brum Lockdown Stories.
The Café is working in collaboration with a project, also funded through the Syrian grant scheme, called ‘Parenting in the UK’.
This project, run by Refugee Alliance, has proved very popular with the participants and there is synergy between the two groups, formal parenting techniques being enhanced with wellbeing activities such as singing.
Because meetings have been limited to the virtual world, communal singing has been almost impossible, but conversation has flowed with the women talking about sad stories experienced during lockdown, exchanging ideas about coping, but also having positive discussions that draw people together.
‘In Her Shoes’ are planning lots of exciting events for the Spring which will hopefully bring reductions in lock-down restrictions.
Look out for songs and performances involving the Midland Arts Centre.
Plans also include supporting the women to study for an NVQ in Food Hygiene, enabling them to cook and serve food when they can meet in a physical space again.
The project is looking forward to meetings in 2021 with loud and proud singing, music, friendship, food, laughter and learning.